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Govt ‘blocks’ NGOs from training councillors

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) wishing conduct training of councillors first have to seek approval from the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.

This development has affected the programming of some NGOs that previously conducted training for local authorities, amid claims that government is trying to thwart authorities controlled by the opposition.

After the 2018 elections, a circular from the government was sent that stated any organisation that seeks to undertake councillor training of any sort should have the approval from the local government ministry to avoid contradictions and duplications.

NGOs that used to work with councillors have said that there is now so much bureaucracy involved in seeking approval from the relevant ministry.

In a letter addressed to Town Clerks seen by CITE, local government permanent secretary George Magosvongwe noted that it was the sole responsibility of the ministry to train councillors.

“Please be advised that all councillors should be available to attend the induction training and no other induction training should be carried out. Furthermore, any organisation that would like to undertake councillor training of any sort should have the approval of the ministry so as to avoid contradictions and duplication,” wrote Magosvongwe.

Zimbabwe Development Democracy Trust (ZDDT) Information and Publicity officer, Mandla Tshuma said their programming, which centred on civic engagement, local level democracy workshops and training of councillors was affected.

“ZDDT has trained councillors who were elected in 2008 and 2013 but now we have to pause the training as the government ordered organisations to seek its approval first. The government said it didn’t want contradictions and that it must be the only authority in charge of inducting office bearers,” he noted.

Tshuma added that to seek approval, organisations had to send training material to the local government ministry which would sit down to make a decision.

“The process is cumbersome and may discourage some NGOs from partaking,” he highlighted.

ZDDT has done a fair job of training councillors as some individuals who were trained from previous years had gone on to become legislators while other residents had participated in recent elections and won.

“Some of the examples are former Makokoba councillor James Sithole, former ward nine councillor Charles Moyo and former deputy mayor Gift Banda who moved on to become members of parliament. Then some residents such as Concilia Mlalazi, a community action member who after our training contested in the 2018 elections and won. She is now the Magwegwe councillor and said our meetings emboldened her,” said the ZDDT publicist.

Director of Plumtree Development Trust, Thomas Sithole weighed saying the government has so much paranoia and mistrust with regards to NGOs.

“I think it’s going to be a cumbersome process going through the ministry’s bureaucracy to get clearance.  It’s just a way of frustrating the work of NGOs. It is scared of empowered and independent councillors who are there to serve the interests of the citizens from an informed position,” he said.

Sithole claimed government wanted to work with less empowered council officials so it could override them.

“It is comfortable working with ill-informed, uninformed and powerless councillors who cannot be easily manipulated. The paranoia and misconception are that through collaboration with NGOs, councillors will advance the regime change agenda the NGOs have been accused of pursuing,” he said.

Plumtree Development Trust has collaborated with its council on a number of initiatives and Sithole added that: “We can continue to work with the council but there is so much bureaucracy involved therefore seeking approval from the ministry is a hectic job.”

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